Can Game Theory Help to Prevent Rape?

Sexual assault has become an extremely prevalent problem among college campuses across the country. What is even more alarming is the extremely low percentage of sexual assault cases that are reported to the authorities. According to the Washington Post-Kasier Family Foundation, one in five women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted, but only 11 percent told police or college authorities. The reasons for the underreporting include: victims not knowing if the incident is truly constituted as rape, fear that they won’t be believed, and victims don’t want to draw attention to themselves or their assailants, or don’t know whom to report to.

A new app, Callisto, aims to make it easier for college students to document and report cases of sexual assault. Callisto works by allowing users to fill out a timestamped record of the incident and then choose between three steps. First, they can send it directly to their school’s Title IX coordinator. Second, the user could save it and decide whether to file the report later. Finally, the user can put the report into a matching system, which means the report will only be filed if another user reports an assault by the same assailant. This last option relies on the concept of game theory.

Most rapes are committed by repeat offenders and most victims know their attackers.Some victims are unsure of reporting because they may write it off as a one-time incident. Knowing that other victims exist may be enough for them to file a report. Callisto’s creators argue that if they could stop perpetrators after their second victim, they could prevent up to 60 percept of college sexual assaults. In addition, since each person creates her or his report independently it makes it less likely that a person will later be accused of submitting copy-cat reports in order to unjustly incriminate someone. This app has the potential to help prevent rape cases across the country and help victims come out of the shadows while receiving support.

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